I have a string of brown prayer beads I wear on my wrist a lot of days. They were given to me by a Buddhist monk I began chatting with while hopelessly lost wandering about in Montreal.
My ability to get hopelessly lost in any given place really is a spectacular talent.
We talked about Buddhism and the mindfulness in being lost when you allow yourself to just be in the place where you are – as well as directions back to the place I was meant to be.
He gave me the beads as a reminder to be present wherever I am.
And they do give me moments of mindfulness (when I remember to take a second and breathe) – to the point where the string is on its last legs. Poor beads.
Having moments to be mindful this week feel important. So much is going on around me, so much I don’t know, so I’m being mindful about being mindful. I’m trying to focus on the good others are doing, the small good I can help with, and how it can be made better and stronger.
In all of this, I came back reading ‘The Happiness Project’. I read this last year but it resonates differently now, as any book does on a re-reading. And right now this is playing in my head:
‘The days are long but the years are short.’
But I’m wondering how much that statement is privilege though. Not that the writer meant it to be – in her context it made perfect sense. In mine, it is also a relevant mantra, albeit for different reasons.
But I think it’s relevant for me for reasons of privilege.
The luck I’ve had.
The support I’ve had.
The teaching I’ve had.
I know that the days that might feel long now will pass. I’ll have more days that pass by without my thinking deeply about them or whizz by in glorious technicolour.
So many things that have very little to do with me but rather the opportunities that have come my way. I may have had my eyes and heart open to them but there’s been a lot of luck involved.
The more work I do in this field – the older I get – the more I think that our ability to cope with obstacles and challenges that, at times, can feel completely insurmountable isn’t created out of a mystical ether. It’s grounded in our past, impacted by our present, nurtured in our hope for the future. I have a tremendous family, incredible friends, amazing mentors. The mistakes I’ve made, I’ve been able to learn from. I’ve often been given room to pull myself out of darkness, time to heal. Sometimes I’ve had to fight for it. Sometimes it has seemed impossible. But the people I have learned to trust now, I know I can trust with everything.
Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone is given help when they ask. Not everyone is given the opportunity to talk about their long days. Not everyone’s long days ate treated seriously.
I’ve been really lucky. My long days have still meant short years.
And so the string of brown beads around my wrist keeps me grounded in gratitude for all the good things in my life. All the beautiful people in my life. All my luck.